On Rebels, Ezra Frees Space Willy

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Quick note: this is not a full review. If you want that, cool, and we can help you out. Here, we take a closer look at several aspects of the episode. As always, SPOILERS from here on out.

(Author’s Note: Yes, I’m aware Willy was a dolphin and I call the Purrgil ‘space whales’ on multiple occasions. I’m entirely okay with the inaccuracy.)

This week’s episode of Star wars Rebels, entitled The Call, begins with a most fantastical sight: space whales. What’s weird about this entrance – besides the obvious – is that only Ezra can hear their whale song. And what is it that they’re singing, you may/may not be asking? ‘Welcome, puny humin,’ they are saying, ‘to one of the weirdest episodes of Rebels you’ll ever see.’ They’re right, too, and I couldn’t be happier.

*Whale puts on funny voice* Hallo, I are humin. I do funny humin things.

The Call was a light-hearted, beautiful, admittedly shallow episode, and one that I enjoyed almost every minute of. However, I’d like to highlight something that Star Wars Report’s Bethany Blanton mentioned in the comments on a previous review, something that very much applied for this episode – and not in a very good way.

Unit Cooperation

It seems like it happens every week with our Spectres: they’re in a tight spot and come up with a barely-there plan to get out of it/complete their primary objective. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, often because it’s a hastily put together plan, or more likely because they don’t communicate at all well and one of them* goes off the rails. It does usually pay off for them, but I can conceive of this becoming a problem, both in and out of universe.

*Not naming names but it rhymes with Fezra. Shuddup I know that’s not a word.

Out of universe, it can be a quick pathway to lazy and rote storytelling (i.e. the dark side), and if things can get too repetitive, it can turn the viewer off. If we’re getting the same story every week, only with different set dressing, what’s there to keep us interested? What’s going to keep us invested in the story when, no matter the danger, we know that their hastily reshaped plan will see them through? Maybe a little battered, sure, but ultimately going on to fight another day.

But this could also be something of a long con; the writers could be playing us. In universe, our Spectres may gripe about sudden changes in plans, but they’ll know that it mostly works. With that in the back of their mind, they could go into each subsequent mission thinking, ‘eh, so we have the broad strokes of a plan. We can just make things up as we go along.’ And this can certainly work for them, but much like lazy writing, it’s lazy thinking, too. And when your life is on the line, that’s just the sort of thing to get you killed.

To return briefly to our own universe, look to [INSERT YOUR OWN COUNTRY OF ORIGIN HERE]’s special forces. For me, that’s the SAS, who train day in and day out becoming proficient at whatever scenario they may encounter. Their training doesn’t stop there: Several years ago there was a siege at the Iranian embassy in London. In preparation for their assault, the SAS obtained the schematics for the embassy and hastily made a set based on these floor plans. For hours they trained, going through these rooms one by one, clearing of them of (fake) enemy combatants, until they had learned the building layout off by heart, and their actions became muscle memory. Their efforts paid off when the siege ended, with only one loss of life.

Now to apply that to Rebels – this is what planning and attention to detail gets you: survival. Nothing can really stop a well aimed blaster shot, or even a random one, but being able to rely on your teammates means you can more effectively operate and see the day through. And it would be great to see this innatention to planning have some real consequences for the Spectres. It would show that the writers are cognizant of the fact that they’re relying on the same type of narrative steps for a large number of episodes. It would also demonstrate to us the audience that the show is capable of depth by demonstrating that such blithe acts have far-reaching consequences – something that the show has not shown much of thus far (that said, it is early days). Oh my, it sounds as though I’m quite eager for our heroes to die. That’s not the case at all.

And on a totally unrelated note …

Ezra Watch

That’s it, down a little. Aww yeah, that’s the spot, humin.

Though I may have taken a brief potshot at Ezra earlier, for all of my disliking of him, I absolutely must be fair: he was not too bad this episode. Sure, he messed up the plan, and yes, he wasn’t at all listening in the first place, but considering he had just connected (while in Ghost, that is. I don’t mean the mind-meld he experiences later) with an intra-galactic migratory sentient species, his spaced-outness was entirely understandable. Not just that, but he demonstrated a strong empathy for their situation and immediately sought to help them, no matter the danger to himself or his fellow Spectres (but again being fair, he should have better communicated the situation to his teammates), and he managed all this while maintaining a good degree of maturity. Add to that his powers are growing to a degree that he, and not Kanan, could hear their whale song and could connect to them while Kanan was busy practicing his Resting Smug Face ™ points to his character developing into one that I can actively root for. Yippee!

The Science of Star Wars

There is none. Move along.

Hera

This being one of the few episodes where Hera actually gets some screen time, she even manages to get her own mini arc. That is to say, she hates the space whales (known as purrgils, if we’re being technical) in the beginning, whereas at the end she doesn’t – still pretty thin on the ground, but I’ll take it. She should really watch some nature documentaries; I feel that they would have changed her outlook a lot quicker and involved less death.

Wait a second, can we have that? A nature documentary set in the Star Wars galaxy, that is. Narrated by David Attenborough, of course.

But that brings me to an uncomfortable comparison. As we see in the beginning, Hera is more than happy to shoot these sentient creatures, despite the fact that they are running desperately low on power. Later, we see the Mining Guild do just that, and they have all the power on the planetoid for their cannons. And though we do get some sympathetic reasoning behind Hera’s motivation, the fact that both the hero and the villain wish to perform the same action within a span of ten minutes is a little discomforting.

Full disclosure: I prefer not to read articles based on episodes or items that I know I’ll review. Prior to writing this, I had read this article by Eleven-Thirtyeight, which touches upon this very subject and so I’ll say no more. I’d highly recommend you reading it, too.

And though I thought it was slightly out of character for her wanting to blast these irksome yet majestic creatures, since it gives us even a minor look into her past and inner thoughts, I gladly welcome its inclusion.

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  • Zarm

    I’m not sure that there was any evidence- before Ezra’s ending meld- that they were sentient, so I’d cut Hera some slack on that one; to her, they are just animal pests (I’m sure neither she nor the audience has a problem with exterminating mynocks), and cost the lives of her friends. I’m not a hunter by any stretch, but if my best friend got killed when a deer tried to cross the road, I might well find myself secretly cheering when hunting season came around.

    That said, her casual bloodthirstiness WAS a little disconcerting- and I appreciated that. In real life, no one is right about every subject. Even those with a strong moral compass have blind spots; areas where they are informed by emotion, bias, or even outright prejudice (not necessarily in the racial sense, mind you- just a strong, unfactual leaning against a concept or situation)… and I like that they are giving Hera that nuance. Letting her be ‘wrong’ and thus, be more real. I thought it was a nice (uncomfortable to watch, but nice) touch.

    Ironically, though you don’t mention it, THIS is the episode where I would totally agree with your ‘ethically questionable’ accusation from Concord Dawn’s article. Stealing the Empire’s fuel is one thing- that’s a wartime action, and I appreciated that they were specifically NOT taking anything but the Empire’s property from these neutral civilians. Then, suddenly, space whales, and BOOM- it’s ‘kill all the miners!’ That, to me, WAS a terrorist action- or at best, a morally-suspect act in ‘defense’ of the Purgil (whose lives didn’t seem to be directly jeopardized). I know it was in response to an unintended, escalating firefight and ended up self-defense (in the case of the fighters), leading to a somewhat ‘darned if you do, darned if you don’t’ claim that could MAYBE apply to making the best of a bad situation- but firing those torpedoes at the end? What was that about? Had they confirmed that everyone was dead and wanted to prevent further ‘exploitation’ of the Purgils (even though they were moving on)? And even if that WAS the scenario, is that really a justified action? Didn’t really seem like it to me…

    EDIT: Ah, I see… the linked article touches on just that subject! :-)

    • MikeDare

      Hey Zarm,

      To address your first point, I’m a little confused, but I think I understand why (please do let me know if I’m wrong): I think you’re mixing up sentient with sapient? Most, if not all, animals are sentient, meaning they can feel and experience things – so these space whales certainly do count as sentient and is reasonable to assume so upon first encounter. To be sapient is to have a sense of self – to have personhood, in other words. Humans, Twi’leks, Rodians, etc. Having said that, on Earth, there is a reasonable case to be made that a number of non-human species could be said to be sapient. Whales, dolphins and the like – although if I remember correctly the scientific jury’s still out on this question.

      But for your second point, that’s a very interesting take and I’m quite warming to it. You’re certainly quite right that no one is 100% right on everything (and indeed people often agree on what ‘right’ even is), and I do agree that it’s good for Hera to have that blind spot. I think my main problem with it was that she was so bloodthirsty. For contrast, I don’t recall her ever being so eager to shoot the Imperials. My impression was that it was merely a dirty duty that had to be done. In that way, she resembled one of my favourite real world military leaders: Sir Arthur Wellesley. A brilliant tactician and one that was, on the whole, okay with sending soldiers to their death. But that’s not to say he enjoyed it. For him it was a necessary evil, and on more than one occasion he was found weeping at the carnage his battles had wrought. So, I like that aspect about her, and simply found it weird that she was so gung-ho. But anyway, I do wholly agree with your point.

      And I do, too, with your last. It was deeply uncomfortable to watch how they needlessly escalated their attack at the end, and needed to be mentioned (the only reason I didn’t speak further was because I feared going into plagiarism of 1138’s article).

      M

      • Zarm

        Ah! Yes, that would be the source of the confusion. From my viewing experience- particularly Star Trek- the use of ‘sentient’ had always contextually suggested the definition of ‘sapient.’ My mistake.

        And I do agree with you; much as I ‘appreciated’ the nuance, her gung-ho-ness was certainly jarring, and took a little while to get used to. When the only reason for your heroes not blasting other life forms is ‘we need to save ammo,’ they sound a lot more like Stormtroopers. (But then, I’m sure most of our heroes would completely have that attitude toward mynocks and we’d never bat an eye, and that’s a standard spacer thing- which is what first got me thinking that Hera might see these creatures as a similar menace). Even so…